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The PVSA is Anachronistic, Counterproductive, and Stupid, and Should be Repealed!


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Virtually every Cruise Critic thread that touches on Alaska and/or Eastern U.S. cruises always cites the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 ("PVSA") as the reason that, say, a cruise ship can't go from Seattle to Alaska without stopping in British Columbia along the way (or go from New York to Maine and back without a stop in Atlantic Canada or Quebec). What is the PVSA anyway, why does it exist, and what is it accomplishing?

 

From what I can tell, it's a typical piece of protectionist legislation that has long outlived whatever purposes it was meant to accomplish. The following L.A. Times link gives a good summary of why the Act is counterproductive and just plain stupid.

 

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-buchholz-pvsa-cruise-20170803-story.html

 

Those of us who are avid cruisers in the U.S. should let our elected representatives know that the PVSA should be repealed, and the cruise industry itself should be focusing its lobbying efforts on getting rid of this anachronistic and economically harmful legislation.

 

 

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I think the cruise lines are quite capable of rallying the troops and if a petition were to be done correctly it should be orchestrated by those companies.  Certainly they could provide their shareholders and customers with a blueprint and the contacts needed to mount a productive protest.  The correct committees need to be targeted.  Randomized contacts are not as effective.

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20 minutes ago, Mary229 said:

I think the cruise lines are quite capable of rallying the troops and if a petition were to be done correctly it should be orchestrated by those companies.  Certainly they could provide their shareholders and customers with a blueprint and the contacts needed to mount a productive protest.  The correct committees need to be targeted.  Randomized contacts are not as effective.

Yet there has been absolutely no call from the cruise lines to amend or get rid of the PVSA. They must have their reasons.

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What? Are you suggesting that an act written in 1886 to address the bulk of coastal passenger services well before the invention of commercial air travel might be out of date? Surely nothing has changed in 135 years! 🙄

Edited by Horizon chaser 1957
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1 minute ago, ontheweb said:

Yet there has been absolutely no call from the cruise lines to amend or get rid of the PVSA. They must have their reasons.

Exactly.  I am anxious to hear what Carnival Corp has to say in the coming week.  The message on the HAL website certainly leaves room for lots of speculation

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@jimdee3636, we get your opinion of the PVSA. But there are always two sides to everything.

 

Agree the others...there have been MANY, MANY, MANY discussions here on the topic. As mentioned consistently, the cruise industry doesn't want the PVSA to be changed!! And, as the Biden Administration has already stated, they support the Jones Act and the PVSA. And, also frequently stated by the Biden Administration, they are operating from the science aspect, not pro business first aspect.

 

This topic has been beaten viciously to death.

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25 minutes ago, CruiserBruce said:

@jimdee3636, we get your opinion of the PVSA. But there are always two sides to everything.

 

Agree the others...there have been MANY, MANY, MANY discussions here on the topic. As mentioned consistently, the cruise industry doesn't want the PVSA to be changed!! And, as the Biden Administration has already stated, they support the Jones Act and the PVSA. And, also frequently stated by the Biden Administration, they are operating from the science aspect, not pro business first aspect.

 

This topic has been beaten viciously to death.

Well, you say there's the "other side," but what is it, exactly? I've yet to read a reasoned argument in favor of retaining the PVSA. And I'm not making the case that Covid-related Canadian restrictions are misguided. My point is that the PVSA was a stupid law before anyone heard of covid, and will still be a stupid law if and when covid is a distant memory.

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4 minutes ago, jimdee3636 said:

Well, you say there's the "other side," but what is it, exactly? I've yet to read a reasoned argument in favor of retaining the PVSA. 

 

If you ever have a lot of spare time(lots!) read this transcript of a 1998 Government Hearing "EFFECT OF THE PASSENGER SERVICES ACT ON THE DOMESTIC CRUISE INDUSTRY" to see all sides arguments even way back then, which still echo today (you'll have to scroll down, down, down - it's a l-o-n-g document) 😉

 

EFFECT OF THE PASSENGER SERVICES ACT ON THE DOMESTIC CRUISE INDUSTRY

 

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29, 1998

U.S. House of Representatives,

Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation,

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,

Washington, DC.

    The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m. in room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Wayne Gilchrest (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding. 
 

http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/Trans/hpw105-65.000/hpw105-65_1.HTM

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6 minutes ago, CruiserBruce said:

@jimdee3636, we get your opinion of the PVSA. But there are always two sides to everything.

 

Agree the others...there have been MANY, MANY, MANY discussions here on the topic. As mentioned consistently, the cruise industry doesn't want the PVSA to be changed!! And, as the Biden Administration has already stated, they support the Jones Act and the PVSA. And, also frequently stated by the Biden Administration, they are operating from the science aspect, not pro business first aspect.

 

This topic has been beaten viciously to death.

 

What is the science aspect, please?  I am not that familiar with the PVSA, but I thought that it was intended to stifle competition.  No? 

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1 hour ago, Mary229 said:

Exactly.  I am anxious to hear what Carnival Corp has to say in the coming week.  The message on the HAL website certainly leaves room for lots of speculation

 

Could you provide a link to that message?  I looked at HAL's web site and did not see anything that would indicate that Carnival Corporation would have anything new to say this coming week.  

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1 minute ago, rkacruiser said:

 

Could you provide a link to that message?  I looked at HAL's web site and did not see anything that would indicate that Carnival Corporation would have anything new to say this coming week.  

I assumed a message this week as customers are anxiously awaiting an outcome of their planned summer vacations.    Here is the link to their statement concerning the Canadian ruling.  My estimation is that the executives and lawyers spent a long weekend in discussions.  I think this is one development that caught them by surprise 

 

https://www.hollandamerica.com/en_US/news/2021-press-releases1/news-02042021-AlaskaCanadaRestrictions.html

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6 minutes ago, Mary229 said:

I assumed a message this week as customers are anxiously awaiting an outcome of their planned summer vacations.    Here is the link to their statement concerning the Canadian ruling.  My estimation is that the executives and lawyers spent a long weekend in discussions.  I think this is one development that caught them by surprise 

 

https://www.hollandamerica.com/en_US/news/2021-press-releases1/news-02042021-AlaskaCanadaRestrictions.html

 

Thank you!  I am glad to learn that 3 of their Alaskan Hotel properties will be in operation.  That will help to provide some employment for Alaskans and provide some revenue for CCL.  

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I'll start off with the same response I use whenever someone questions the PVSA from the narrow viewpoint of the cruising industry.  It is the Passenger Vessel Service Act, not the Cruise Vessel Service Act.  The distinction is important, as the legal definition of a "passenger vessel" is any vessel that carries more than 12 people for hire.  So, the PVSA covers not just large ocean-going cruise vessels, but every ferry, water taxi, commuter boat, sight-seeing boat, whale watching boat, casino boat, dinner cruise boat, and even large charter fishing vessels in the US.

 

What do these vessels need the PVSA for?  Unlike the Wikipedia article on the PVSA, and most anti-cabotage articles, the PVSA was enacted long before maritime labor was a factor, and the vessels involved were not going to be built overseas and brought across the ocean for use in the US.  The PVSA was an outgrowth of the series of fires, explosions, and disasters that beset steamboats in the US in the early 19th century.  The US enacted the series of Steamboat Acts mandating safety requirements for these boats, and the shipowners, in an effort to evade the cost of the safety equipment and inspections, started registering their boats (all of which had been built in the US) in foreign countries.  The PVSA forced these domestic shipowners to have all their vessels be US flag, so that they had to be compliant with the safety measures of the Steamboat Acts.

 

To this day, the USCG Marine Inspection Division, holds US flag ships of all types (cargo and passenger) to stricter safety, training, and competency standards than foreign flag ships, even ones that "homeport" in the US.

 

So, for the OP, while the PVSA has little effect in Arizona, it does many other places in the US.  Get rid of the PVSA, and the Staten Island Ferry, the Alaska Marine Highway, the Red and White fleet in San Francisco, etc, would all be allowed to reflag their vessels, hire foreign crew, not follow US labor laws, and not pay US taxes, either on corporate income or crew income.

 

So, today, there are several hundred thousand jobs in the US, held by US citizens, in the PVSA industry (just not many in the cruise portion of the industry), and the PVSA industry generates several hundred million in the US economy.  Add in the tax revenue from all these jobs held by US citizens, instead of the non-US crew on the foreign flag ships.

 

Another feature that those who want to eliminate the PVSA don't take into account is;  why aren't "cruises to nowhere" allowed anymore?  Is it the PVSA?  Nope.  "Cruises to nowhere" are specifically allowed under the PVSA.  CBP has ruled that foreign crew on foreign ships that perform "cruises to nowhere" in the US are working in the US, and therefore require work visas, and require crew to be paid US wages and meet US labor laws.  So, cruise lines have decided, not been ordered to eliminate "cruises to nowhere" for cost reasons.  If a foreign flag cruise ship could be allowed to sail only between US ports (repeal of the PVSA), then the foreign crew would be in the same position, they would need to pay US taxes, and the crew would need to pay US taxes.  The Maritime Administration has studied the difference between US flag operation of ships and foreign flag operations.  Crew costs are about 5 times as much for US flag operations (and that is just for a ship with a crew of 20, not a thousand).  The other part of this, is the "work visa".  Granting work visas to foreigners requires that the person has special skills that are in short supply in the US.  Is there a shortage of housekeepers, waiters, and bartenders in the US?  Plus, our maritime labor unions would have something to say about allowing foreign crew to work in the US.

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55 minutes ago, Tampa Girl said:

 

What is the science aspect, please?  I am not that familiar with the PVSA, but I thought that it was intended to stifle competition.  No? 

Science in relationship to response to Covid and reopening the cruise business. 

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58 minutes ago, Tampa Girl said:

 

What is the science aspect, please?  I am not that familiar with the PVSA, but I thought that it was intended to stifle competition.  No? 

See my previous post about the PVSA.  It was never, and still isn't about "stifling competition".  It is far more about leveling the playing field for those vessels that are required to incur the added cost of US flag operation, to keep the US waters safer and cleaner.

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6 minutes ago, chengkp75 said:

See my previous post about the PVSA.  It was never, and still isn't about "stifling competition".  It is far more about leveling the playing field for those vessels that are required to incur the added cost of US flag operation, to keep the US waters safer and cleaner.

 

Your posts are always chock full of interesting information. 

 

Laws are laws and are not easily changed, particularly on the Federal level.

 

CPB "rules" ought to be able to be changed/modified.

 

Is there no "middle ground" given today's realities?    

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3 minutes ago, rkacruiser said:

 

Your posts are always chock full of interesting information. 

 

Laws are laws and are not easily changed, particularly on the Federal level.

 

CPB "rules" ought to be able to be changed/modified.

 

Is there no "middle ground" given today's realities?    

It is not a CBP rule that requires work visas for non-US citizens to work in the US, but an immigration law from many, many years ago.  CBP decided that they had not enforced the law properly with regard to "cruises to nowhere" in the past, and this is what changed.

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5 minutes ago, chengkp75 said:

CBP decided that they had not enforced the law properly with regard to "cruises to nowhere" in the past, and this is what changed.

 

Bureaucrats made this decision, then.  Correct?

 

If so, then, such could be changed by a different set of "bureaucrats".  Correct?

 

A "middle ground" needs to be found to fit the present leisure/cruise industry dilemma, in my opinion.  

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3 minutes ago, rkacruiser said:

 

Bureaucrats made this decision, then.  Correct?

 

If so, then, such could be changed by a different set of "bureaucrats".  Correct?

 

A "middle ground" needs to be found to fit the present leisure/cruise industry dilemma, in my opinion.  

Well, if they went back to "not enforcing the law correctly", there could be legal challenges from interested parties to require the proper enforcement.  While laws have been applied with blinders in the past, I believe that none have survived a legal challenge to enforce either the letter or the intent of the law, as written.

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1 hour ago, chengkp75 said:

I'll start off with the same response I use whenever someone questions the PVSA from the narrow viewpoint of the cruising industry.  It is the Passenger Vessel Service Act, not the Cruise Vessel Service Act.  The distinction is important, as the legal definition of a "passenger vessel" is any vessel that carries more than 12 people for hire.  So, the PVSA covers not just large ocean-going cruise vessels, but every ferry, water taxi, commuter boat, sight-seeing boat, whale watching boat, casino boat, dinner cruise boat, and even large charter fishing vessels in the US.

 

What do these vessels need the PVSA for?  Unlike the Wikipedia article on the PVSA, and most anti-cabotage articles, the PVSA was enacted long before maritime labor was a factor, and the vessels involved were not going to be built overseas and brought across the ocean for use in the US.  The PVSA was an outgrowth of the series of fires, explosions, and disasters that beset steamboats in the US in the early 19th century.  The US enacted the series of Steamboat Acts mandating safety requirements for these boats, and the shipowners, in an effort to evade the cost of the safety equipment and inspections, started registering their boats (all of which had been built in the US) in foreign countries.  The PVSA forced these domestic shipowners to have all their vessels be US flag, so that they had to be compliant with the safety measures of the Steamboat Acts.

 

To this day, the USCG Marine Inspection Division, holds US flag ships of all types (cargo and passenger) to stricter safety, training, and competency standards than foreign flag ships, even ones that "homeport" in the US.

 

So, for the OP, while the PVSA has little effect in Arizona, it does many other places in the US.  Get rid of the PVSA, and the Staten Island Ferry, the Alaska Marine Highway, the Red and White fleet in San Francisco, etc, would all be allowed to reflag their vessels, hire foreign crew, not follow US labor laws, and not pay US taxes, either on corporate income or crew income.

 

So, today, there are several hundred thousand jobs in the US, held by US citizens, in the PVSA industry (just not many in the cruise portion of the industry), and the PVSA industry generates several hundred million in the US economy.  Add in the tax revenue from all these jobs held by US citizens, instead of the non-US crew on the foreign flag ships.

 

Another feature that those who want to eliminate the PVSA don't take into account is;  why aren't "cruises to nowhere" allowed anymore?  Is it the PVSA?  Nope.  "Cruises to nowhere" are specifically allowed under the PVSA.  CBP has ruled that foreign crew on foreign ships that perform "cruises to nowhere" in the US are working in the US, and therefore require work visas, and require crew to be paid US wages and meet US labor laws.  So, cruise lines have decided, not been ordered to eliminate "cruises to nowhere" for cost reasons.  If a foreign flag cruise ship could be allowed to sail only between US ports (repeal of the PVSA), then the foreign crew would be in the same position, they would need to pay US taxes, and the crew would need to pay US taxes.  The Maritime Administration has studied the difference between US flag operation of ships and foreign flag operations.  Crew costs are about 5 times as much for US flag operations (and that is just for a ship with a crew of 20, not a thousand).  The other part of this, is the "work visa".  Granting work visas to foreigners requires that the person has special skills that are in short supply in the US.  Is there a shortage of housekeepers, waiters, and bartenders in the US?  Plus, our maritime labor unions would have something to say about allowing foreign crew to work in the US.

I take back what I said about no one ever having made a convincing argument in favor of the PVSA; you've done it. However, for the life of me I still can't understand why it's in the vital interest of the U.S. and its shipping industry to basically require that a cruise from, say, L.A. to Hawaii and back has to spend (i.e., waste) a day in Ensenada.

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5 minutes ago, jimdee3636 said:

I take back what I said about no one ever having made a convincing argument in favor of the PVSA; you've done it. However, for the life of me I still can't understand why it's in the vital interest of the U.S. and its shipping industry to basically require that a cruise from, say, L.A. to Hawaii and back has to spend (i.e., waste) a day in Ensenada.

Again, you have to deal with internationally recognized definitions.  The definition of a "foreign voyage" requires a vessel to travel from one country to another.  Likewise, the definition of "coastwise voyage" or "domestic voyage" is a voyage that only visits one country.  So, whether that vessel and voyage is a cruise ship going from LA to Hawaii, or from Manhattan to Staten Island, they are both "coastwise" voyages, and therefore limited to US flag vessels.  It is in the best interest of the US that the ships that remain within US waters all the time are the safest possible.  Would you like to have every passenger vessel that I mentioned in my first post be flagged in Liberia, or Malta, both nations that have a history of ships sinking, burning, breaking in half, or tipping over causing loss of life and environmental damage?

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5 hours ago, rkacruiser said:

 

Bureaucrats made this decision, then.  Correct?

 

If so, then, such could be changed by a different set of "bureaucrats".  Correct?

 

A "middle ground" needs to be found to fit the present leisure/cruise industry dilemma, in my opinion.  

Having spent some time with a federal agency, the "bureaucrats" as you put usually do not arbitrarily decide to change how a law is interpreted and regulations are changed.  It is often as a result of someone threatening legal action and legal staff determining that the Agency would lose or after a judicial ruling.  Sometimes they are changed do to a new administration putting a different interpretation on a law.  However in either case whenever there is a change and new regulations created they follow a public process including a period for public comment.  Legal challenges or the threat of legal challenges often come up in this phase.

 

The CBP changes to the interpretation concerning cruises to nowhere has survived such a process and the cruise lines clearly dropped such cruises rather than to try a legal challenge that such an interpretation is incorrect.

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I understand NCL has or had a U.S. flagged and crewed ship Pride of America used for cruising among the Hawaiian Islands.  I wonder if that ship would qualify under the PVSA to cruise this Summer from Seattle to and from Alaska.

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